Pro­file: Ginger Gor­man

For someone who has borne the brunt of social media attacks, social justice journ­al­ist Ginger Gor­man takes a not-so-com­mon atti­tude towards deal­ing with her attack­ers.

I became very curi­ous about the motiv­a­tions of trolls and who they were and what they were try­ing to achieve, so I went and inter­viewed a whole load of them and it was quite an enlight­en­ing pro­cess,” she said.

Ginger came under a sus­tained social media bar­rage fol­low­ing an inter­view that changed her life. In the course of her every­day journ­al­ist­ic endeav­ours, Ginger inter­viewed a same-sex couple who appeared to be hap­pily rais­ing a child. The truth was much dark­er, and only came to light much later.

The men inter­viewed were arres­ted and con­victed for the sexu­al abuse of their own child and the res­ult­ing social media firestorm dragged Ginger into the angry reach of an online lynch mob. She was blamed, incor­rectly, for sup­port­ing the men.

It was an orches­trated online hate cam­paign that ostens­ibly was the pro­duct of the art­icle that I’d writ­ten about those two dads, who turned out to be pae­do­philes, and the trolls were accus­ing me of being a pae­do­phile ena­bler.”

The exper­i­ence impacted Ginger on mul­tiple levels, first and fore­most being her con­cern for the abused child.

He was a gor­geous little boy … I carry around a grief for him and I always will and I always won­der about him and how his life will turn out. I don’t think that will ever go away,” she said.

Com­pound­ing that grief were the sus­tained online attacks and abuse that included phys­ic­al threats again­st her­self and her fam­ily.

But Ginger did not retreat, or respond in kind. She chose a dif­fer­ent path.

I don’t really believe in an eye for an eye. You don’t really want to stoop to their level. I didn’t want that to turn me into someone that wants to hurt another per­son. I believe in social justice. I want soci­ety to be fairer.”

Ginger embarked on a cam­paign to make the online media world a safer place for every­one, a cam­paign that formed the top­ic for her TEDx­Can­ber­ra present­a­tion. In her sights are not indi­vidu­als, or even online mobs, but law enforce­ment, work­places and social media com­pan­ies.

Legis­la­tion exists, but often author­it­ies will not act on it. They think that the online world is dif­fer­ent to the off­line world, and frankly, it is not. If someone is threat­en­ing me with rape and murder, I’m going to be afraid if it’s online, I’m going to be afraid if it’s off­line. So there’s a gap there that the author­it­ies don’t breach. They need to work a lot harder in my view to invest­ig­ate and pro­sec­ute,” she said.

Work­places [also] need to take this very ser­i­ously. They need to imple­ment social media self-defence train­ing. And social media com­pan­ies have been quite lax until now. There’s a few pos­it­ive signs that they’re doing some­thing. But, they must pro­tect people online and they’re not really doing enough.”

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